President Marcelo “discusses human rights” with visiting Egyptian head of State al-Sisi

Against a backdrop of criticism, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has begun a three-day visit to Portugal, designed to drum up investment for his developing country.

Between Sunday and Tuesday he was due to meet the president, prime minister, the parliamentary speaker and “various academic, economic and international institutions”, reports Egyptian newsite Ahram online – quoting Portugal’s ambassador to Egypt Madalena Fischer as saying: “Several Portuguese companies have shown interest in taking advantage of investment opportunities available in the Egyptian market, especially after the latest economic measures adopted in the country; mainly the liberalisation of the local currency’s exchange rate”.

But what the site does not allude to is the discomfort of various NGO’s – particularly Portugal’s branch of Amnesty International which “accuses” al-Sisi of “acts of repression, torture, arbitrary imprisonments and limitations to freedom of expression”.

Covering this aspect of the Egyptian Head of State’s visit, RTP’s Antena 1 has posted an interview with an activist named only as Mawra who told reporter Rita Soares that the situation in her home country is “much worse” today than it was during the riots five years ago that led to the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Social freedom is almost non-existent, she explained. People have to be guarded over everything they say, post online or otherwise write, as they can be thrown into jail for drawing a cartoon or wearing a tshirt saying “No to torture”.
Freedom under al-Sisi is “a lot less than in the days of Mubarak”, Mawra told Soares.

Thus President Marcelo’s comments that the pair discussed human rights this morning has to be put into context.

Marcelo said the hour-long audience involved “open speaking” on a number of matters and saw al-Sisi invite him for a State visit to Egypt, which he has accepted.

Al-Sisi’s vote in the UN ‘race’ for secretary general was also acknowledged as it helped towards clinching the job for Portugal’s former prime minister António Guterres, said President Marcelo, adding Egypt is “in a fundamental position” in geostrategical terms, with “shared concerns” like “migration, refugees and keeping the doors open for peace in the near and middle east”.

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